climate change biases

Climate Change Biases

climate change biasesI accept anthropogenic climate change without question. However, as much as I hate to say it, I don’t believe the global community can come to a consensus about fixing the problem. One of the reasons is climate change biases.

Climate Change Biases in Action

One would think that with an issue with such catastrophic consequences that we could come together on a suite of solutions. (Notice that I say suite and not a solution. That would lean toward the perfect solution fallacy realm.) Instead, we have name-calling and vicious bickering that one could almost say we deserve what we get.

Take the latest action by the U.S. Department of Energy to nix funding for the FutureGen 2.0, a $1.65 billion clean coal project in Illinois. I don’t claim to understand all the science behind the project. What is clear is that the DOE and the White House pick their causes. Can anyone say Solyndra, a $535 million “mistake”? Or how about the DOE’s $1.2 billion loan guarantee to SunPower?

The preference for solar power over clean coal shows signs of confirmation bias and anchoring. That latter is the tendency to rely one part of the story when making decisions, in this case, about US action on climate change. It’s not a stretch to conclude that clean coal lost out because it includes, well, coal.

Science-Based Decisions

I don’t have anything against solar power. I think there are some problems that need to be addressed, not the least of which is funding. But the bias doesn’t just exist with coal. The feds have pulled the same act with nuclear power.

Nuclear power offers a no-emissions solution that runs at a 90-percent capacity factor, with a 60-year lifespan. Compare that to a solar plant with a 20-percent capacity factor and a 25-year lifespan. I’m reminded of the Pew Research Center surveys that I wrote about last time.

Only 27 percent of scientists said that science drove policy decisions on clean air and water regulation all or most of the time. Clearly when climate change biases sway decisions on energy supply, the White House is confirming this assessment by scientists.

We live in a time where conforming with our group drives our thinking—even to the point where we reject science. It’s evident in other areas too, like GMOs and vaccines. Both are safe and necessary in today’s society.

Hopefully, research and development will continue with clean coal, especially if it truly has something to offer. In the meantime, we have to contend with the rather loud and obnoxious the pseudoscience and non-science crowds. It’s what Albert Einstein warned us about when he said,

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from that of their social environment.”

Maybe we should have listened.

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photo credit: Black-headed gulls arguing on the ice via photopin (license)

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